How can I observe Sukkot if I do not have a sukkah?

Answered by
Rabbi Victor S. Appell

At Sukkot, it is a mitzvah to build a sukkah and to celebrate in a sukkah. The Torah (Leviticus 23:42-43) tells us that we are to live in a booth for seven days. Of course, it is not always possible to build a sukkah of one's own. Those who live in apartments may not have the outdoor space necessary for a sukkah. We are also instructed (Deuteronomy 16:14-15) to celebrate in the sukkah. We do this by eating our meals in a sukkah. Synagogues and Jewish community centers often have sukkot (plural of sukkah) that are open to the public, where one can eat a meal. Even if we dine outdoors often, eating a meal in a sukkah is a wonderful reminder of the fall harvest and our connection to the world around us. Like Thanksgiving, it is an opportunity for us to express our gratitude for all that sustains us.

Find a congregation near you and get in touch about how to participate in Sukkot activities. Even if there is no sukkah near you, consider ways to celebrate the change of seasons and how the bounty of the harvest can be shared with others. A donation to a food pantry or to a shelter for the homeless is a wonderful way of celebrating Sukkot.

One of the mitzvot of Sukkot is to rejoice during the holiday. Another tradition, ushpizin, involves inviting symbolic guests to the sukkah. Plan a festive meal, inviting family and friends, featuring food common to the fall harvest. Another important mitzvah of Sukkot is the gathering of the four species represented by the lulav (palm branches) and the etrog (a citron). There are many lovely stories associated with these symbols, which help to emphasize the agricultural basis of this holiday.